This I Believe

Allyson - San Francisco, California
Entered on February 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Some people find it shocking that I read the newspaper; as an engaged and informed teenager, I actually fall within the minority. The so-called age of technology has opened up tremendous opportunities for learning and the spread of information. Yet all of these innovations have disadvantages: awash in a sea of video games, movies and computers, it is possible for a young person to become detached from reality, blissfully unaware of the world around him. Maybe mom was right when she claimed TV fries your brain.

There is a column that runs daily in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled Public Eavesdropping, the premise being that readers send in strange or comical comments they have overheard. One column that really affected me was a quote overheard from a young man who asked, “ Is there anything worth seeing at the Hermitage?” While this phrase may seem ridiculous, in many ways this young man illustrates a problem affecting many young people. Today’s youth have been inundated with so much information, so many images and stories, that we have become desensitized. The internet has given us access to a world of information, but this flood of ideas has also handicapped our ability to decide what is “worth” seeing and what is “worth” fighting for.

During the Vietnam War, many Americans experienced war for the first time through the lenses of cameras. Seeing the brutality of the war with their own eyes left many American youth indignant; there was a sense that they could not sit around and let these things happen. Today’s young people see similar horrifying images so often that they have become meaningless. What may have outraged a teenager forty years ago may be just another picture to a teenager today.

There are dozens of quotes and clichés condemning apathy – “Idleness is the devils playground”; “Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand” . These sayings attempt to frighten the listener into action. Yet action is something that comes from within; it is a gut reaction, whether it is indignation after reading about a social injustice or awe when viewing a spectacular work of art. I believe in this feeling. I believe that American youth can overcome the wave of apathy sweeping our nation, and actually feel something. I believe in finding a passion and following it. Quite simply, I believe in believing.